FCC and Alamo Broadband Set to Face Off Over Net Neutrality

On December 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments against net neutrality brought by Alamo Broadband, a small Texas Internet provider, the latest to push to end net neutrality. In its filing, the Federal Communications Commission reiterated that the net neutrality rules issued this year that reclassified ISPs as “common carriers” do not violate First Amendment rights. Both the FCC and Alamo’s positions are clear in the filings they’ve recently made to the court.

news_02_smallAccording to the FCC, “nobody understands broadband providers to be sending a message or endorsing speech when transmitting the Internet content that a user has requested,” quotes Ars Technica.

“When a user directs her browser to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal editorial page, she has no reason to think that the views expressed there are those of her broadband provider.”

The FCC compared the role ISPs play to that of telephone companies.

Alamo Broadband’s case follows objections made over the years by a wide range of ISPs and their allies, including AT&T, CenturyLink, CTIA-The Wireless Association, the United States Telecom Association, and Verizon.

In its filing, Alamo argued that ISPs “exercise the same editorial discretion as cable television operators in deciding which speech to transmit.” The FCC’s response is that cable TV systems have limited capacity but “ISPs, by contract, face no technological obstacles preventing them from providing access to all lawful Internet content.”

The FCC’s viewpoint is that ISPs sometimes engage in activities — such as operating their own websites — that are protected by the First Amendment, but stressed that common carriers “do not share the free speech rights of broadcasters, newspapers, or others engaged in First Amendment activity.”